September 6, 2004
"What provokes your risibility, sir? Have I said anything that you understand? Then I ask pardon of the rest of the company"
(Swans - September 6, 2004) WAL*MART, THE PERSONIFICATION OF 21st CENTURY CONSUMERIST ENLIGHTENMENT: The largest corporation in the world, with $220 billion in sales (FY 2001), has honed and refined its business practices. Take California, where the company has 44,000 workers. Seventy-five percent of those workers earn about $9.40 an hour. Less than half of those workers receive health benefits. Wal*Mart is a non-union, rabidly non-union work-place; unionized grocery workers in the Bay Area make $15.31 an hour -- that's almost 40 percent more than at Wal*Mart -- and 95 percent of them receive health benefits. Moral of the story: Since the company entered the grocery market, 25 supermarkets chains have been forced to declare Chapter 11 or to close altogether...and 12,000 unionized workers have lost their jobs. But wait, there is much more to this sorry story. A study (from the office of CA Congressman George Miller) shows that for any new Wal*Mart store with 200 employees, the taxpayers pick up a tab of $420,750 a year in public assistance costs. For, you see, the workers still need social help and must depend on emergency medical services, CalWorks, Food Stamps, subsidized housing and child care assistance -- at a cost of $54 million a year to the taxpayers! So, let's see if you get it. You shop there and get "Always Lower Prices," so you think, with much delight; but the workers can't make a decent living, so that you have to spend your hard-earned dollars to help them through governmental programs that you loathe. Meanwhile, your local grocery stores are driven into oblivion; workers -- that is, neighbors of yours who contribute to your own well being -- are out of a job, which drives up the social cost for the entire community/state/country and makes you mad at the government... You now have to drive miles to shop (additional hidden costs in gas, rubber, road maintenance -- though not much is being maintained anymore around the country but missiles and other agents of death -- insurance premium due to increased risk of road accidents, etc.) but you keep shopping there with a pleasing frenzy, in order to get a deal on a few needed items, all the while spending much more that you would ever have done at your now extinct local store because of your addiction to purchases on impulse... Do I get this right? Now, what do you think happens when all the local stores and supermarkets are gone in a Wal*Mart area? Prices go up to the level of your former local stores, and higher. So you've paid all the hidden costs and keep paying for more of what you do not really need and at higher prices... Get the gist?
NOW, SOMEONE MUST BENEFIT, NO? Well, what about the late Wal*Mart founder, Sam Walton and his family? His widow and four children have personal assets of over $100 billion -- that's $100,000,000,000 folks, for those of you who have any remaining connection with the original three R's (as opposed to the dreaded enviro-Rs). These enlightened people account for five of the ten wealthiest Americans. Hey, now, you know where you money goes...
WAIT, THERE IS MORE: I hear that Wal*Mart workers do their shopping -- on credit -- at, where else, but Wal*Mart... Talk about the dumbing of America! Note: Based on a UC Center for Labor Research and Education, and an article by Marty Bennett, who teaches history at Santa Rosa Junior College (California).
THE CONVENTIONS ARE THANKFULLY OVER, and both parties offered their messages of hope for the home of the brave. Stay the course in Iraq, they said -- we'll be there for the next decade or more, like in Germany, South Korea, Japan, etc. We are at war, you know. Yesteryear it was communism; today it's terrorism. No need to be fearful though, we've just raised the Alert level to orange. They, the bad guys, are up to no good, ready to take your freedom and liberties and way of life, but we won't let this happen. More money for the military, and more cops on the beat. Life's swell. Soon you'll get Patriot Act II, for the benefit of your security and safety -- better-enhanced security and safety, of course (and remember to snitch on your neighbors). With NAFTA, the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF, our free trade policies will bring freedom and democracy, peace and prosperity to the entire world. Our military will be at hand when needed to bring peace to the four corners of the planet (Iran, Syria, Venezuela, the Sudan, Cuba...so many places, so little time). Our corporations, a model of generosity, thanks to the hidden hand of "outsourcing," will create new, well-paying jobs in services at home and abroad; so, we need to take care of the welfare of those munificent corporate entities by offering them more tax credits for health care and the like. No child will be left behind. Public schools will be fully funded through more tax credits, vouchers, and faith-based initiatives. This is morning still in America, "you ain't seen nuthin' yet." I am John Kerry. My opponent is an abject failure, vote for me. We'll do a better job at doing the same thing. I am George Bush, the war president and straight shooter. My opponent is a flip-flopper. Vote for me. And everybody went home.
THE REPUBLICAN PARTY as viewed from Lake Wobegon: In the words of Garrison Keillor, "The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong's moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt's evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we're deaf, dumb and dangerous." (from an article in In These Times)
A VOICE OF SANITY, THEN AND NOW: NADER on NBC's Meet The Press, March 24, 1996:
Tim Russert: "But people are going to say, Ralph Nader, in the end this is a real world. Would you prefer to have Bill Clinton or Bob Dole sitting in the Oval Office, because one of those two men are going to be president?"
Nader: "I would prefer neither in the real world."
Russert: "It wouldn't bother you if you woke up in November and said, 'Bill Clinton was not re-elected today because he lost the state of California to Bob Dole and the reason was Ralph Nader siphoned off 6 per cent of voters who would have voted for Bill Clinton?'"
Nader: "If that happens to Clinton because he refuses to adopt a very important campaign finance reform, sponsor initiative referenda recall all over the country, have inserts in various company bills that are being bailed out for illegal monopolies, to help consumers voluntarily to join their own consumer action group, give taxpayers standing to sue the federal government, allow shareholders who own these companies to have some control, including the pension trust, he deserves it..."
Russert: "And if he embraced some of your issues that you're talking about this morning, you would be, then, reluctant to challenge him all the way through to November?"
Nader: "Not at all. Politicians always need an opposition that stays to its convictions and holds them to their promises..."
He made good sense then. He still makes good sense now. So the "a vote for Nader is a vote for (fill in the republican)" scare tactics continue...
MILOSEVIC IS BEING JUDICIALLY LYNCHED under the radar screen. On September 2, the ICTY in The Hague decided to impose a counsel on Slobodan Milosevic against his will and in total contradiction and contravention of its own [ICTY] Statute, whose Article 21, Paragraph 4 expressly declares that the accused "shall be entitled to the following minimum guarantees . . . . d) to be tried in his presence, and to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choice". To defend himself in person is exactly what Milosevic has been doing for over two years, and in so doing has turned Louise Arbour, Carla del Ponte, the judges and the entire Chamber into a laughing stock. The debacle at the Kangaroo court is so severe that they have chosen to gag Milosevic, even if it means breaking the very laws they created. The folks at The Hague, in Washington, and the European chancelleries have good reasons to panic. See below.
REMINDER OF ANOTHER CASE OF MASS DECEPTION: If Iraq was a case of missing WMD, Kosovo has increasingly become a case of Missing Mass Graves... Where are the Clinton/Blair-claimed 100,000 - 200,000 bodies allegedly killed by the Serbs in Kosovo? We launched an illegal war based on those claims, you'll recall. To this day just over 5,000 bodies of all sides have been found, 5 1/2 years after the fact. A nine-member Canadian forensic team came back from Kosovo empty-handed. Accompanied by Canadian Documentary-maker Garth Pritchard, they only found "a massacre that never happened." I guess you did not hear about this report in The New York Times... And where's HRW, the ICG and all our humanitarian crusaders who beat the drums of war at the time? Bogus allegations, lies, fabrications, propaganda, and other criminal shenanigans -- high crimes and misdemeanors, if you will -- are not the exclusive tools of Mr. Bush and his thugs. Mr. Clinton, and many US presidents before him, have used these techniques -- and no one will ever be impeached. But muzzling Milosevic, getting some quasi-ignorant "public defendant" to argue his case so that they can find him guilty real fast and close shop before the entire affair unravels, is priority #1, whatever judicial perversion it takes. The Nazis were good at this sort of perverse game.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: "Vivir se puede, pero no te dejan," an Argentinean friend once told me (when I lived there in the '70s). Indeed, why can't they let you be, especially some e-mail correspondents who think their god-given, American-messianic, Anglo-Saxon superior selves grant them the absolute right to keep giving you hell -- in "private" and behind their comfy keyboard and monitor screen?
Is it too much to ask readers to sign their e-mailed letters with their name and customary information (city, state of residence, phone#)? Is it so hard to follow the guidelines? Why do I have to keep sending an e-mail back, "Thanks for your comments and for reading/visiting Swans. In order to include them in our Letters to the Editor, could you kindly let us know your city/state of residence, etc." Some respond with the requested information (why did you not include it in the first place?), some simply ignore the e-mail; and worse, some respond by saying that their comments are not for publication -- those generally come from whiners and flamers. Eh, why are you contacted me then? Go talk to your priest or guru. Two recent examples:
A certain Rowan Berkeley from the UK: He writes, "At first glance, or second rather, I already discern a lamentable pattern in your selections and your judgments. On the one hand, you endorse the muddle-headed views of the French-Jewish Catholic Spinozist Benda, who tells us that 'civilisation' has appeared, disappeared, reappeared, etc., strictly in accordance with European-Hellenic canons, showing not only no awareness but even no interest in 'civilisation' beyond those parameters, i.e. anywhere in Asia. On the other, you endorse the judgments of Malise Ruthven, who attacks in the Muslim world the very religious seriousness of which Benda laments the disappearance in Europe. Doubtless, the catena of thought which connects these two antithetical positions is too long for your mind to encompass. Jewish thought in all its phases remains narrow." Fine, no problem, that's a fair comment. Can I have Mr. Berkeley's city of residence? Asked him twice. Did not even bother to respond...
Or a certain Dimitrios Brin -- typical watch-dog -- taking Philip Greenspan to task: "Your recent article, Sharon, Israel, And Anti-Semitism, is a complete success! It has inspired me to hate jews even more than I already do since they are all such liars and low lifes and that they spread their lies about anti-semitism throughout the world. Thank you, Mr.. Greenspan, for opening my eyes to their insolent lies!" Asked to send the customary information, he responds, "My comments need not be published. I only wish Mr. Greenspan can read them as a reward for his hard work researching this subject!" And beware, if you dare answering with some irony, for you then get a long diatribe on how much Phil Greenspan (and I, by association and for publishing Phil's views) are creator of hate and, but you already knew it, "anti-Semitism." To wit: "[...] Hate is a taught emotion that is best nurtured in the infancy with mothers breast milk," writes our watch dog. He continues ("creative spelling" left intact...): "It takes care, persistence, commitment, and CREATIVITY to grow and nourish hate in the young ones - so it grows and matures into a reflex akin to those of basic instincts. That, Mr. d'Aymery, takes creativity.
"It is that creativity and an immense effort of breeding generations of hating kids that occurred in western, eastern, southern, and northern europe for centuries. Same in mother russia, where kids learned at age 7 to call someone a jew not really sure why - just kind of a reflex they learned from their parents. And then slowly learn to pick out a jew from a crowd of boys and girls - and no, jews in russia don't wear skull caps or speak hebrew/idish, it's a real skill. History lessons? Holocaust? - not in mother russia! WWII killed millions of soviets, end of lesson.
"Perhaps you missed and intriguing documentary last night on HBO by the director who was killed in the process. The movie titled "Death in Gaza" reveals some more of the same nurtured hate that insures the Palestinian generations to come will hate the Jews more that their mothers and fathers did. A glimpse into a classroom reveals a lot, their teachers solidify their fundamental hatred and elevate it to the new levels - self sacrifice - shahada - martyrdom....
"And it is that creativity which has inspired Mr. Greenspan to right his article of hate and despise of the evil Jew in turn for hope that it will inspire others....
"Hate, Mr. d'Aymery, on the level of today's anti semitism is inspired and requires immense creativity and effort. And I regret to inform you the publication I read yesterday with Mr. Greenspan's article is just more of the same demoralization of the jew, dehumanization and creative vilification that has been done for years."
Phil Greenspan will enjoy this nice little piece of rhetorical tirade -- not much original at that; but then I've only one life and two hands, and my Martian brain, evidently of the slow type, does not get it (or I'm just too used to the litany, and bored by it). So, I close the door: "Mr. Brin, I'm running a publication, not a confessional. I've asked you to provide me with your city and state of residence, in order to publish your comments. You have refused. I've no interest in corresponding with you. Contact the ADL." (Note: no free editing of the above letter was provided...)
Who needs this crap?
And what about a certain Michael Pugliese -- a right-wing libertarian who keeps pronouncing immortal words of platitudes on Doug Henwood's Listserv (LBO) -- who, in response to my polite request for city/state of residence, sent me back a 10,000-word e-mail trashing Louis Proyect. What Louis Proyect had to do with my request and Pugliese's original e-mail remains as deep a mystery as that of the Immaculate Conception!
Again, who needs this kind of aggravation, anyway?
People, if you want to write to the editor, INCLUDE YOUR NAME, CITY/STATE, AND A PHONE NUMBER WHERE WE CAN CONTACT YOU IF NEEDED. WE DO NOT PUBLISH YOUR E-MAIL ADDRESS OR YOUR PHONE NUMBER -- JUST YOUR NAME, CITY AND STATE. If you wish to enter into dialogues and other chit-chats -- often of the nasty kind -- find your favorite faith-based, snake-oil sermonizer. Your opinion on the sex of the angels, your own warts, and other personal rants are of no interest to this Martian.
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America the 'beautiful' on Swans
Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.
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This Week's Internal Links
America #1 -- Score Card 2004 - Dossier compiled by Gilles d'Aymery
The Final Decline - by Jan Baughamn
Mythology - by Helen Jones
From Smoke To Fire: Is The GOP Stealing Another Election? - by Milo Clark
Welcome To New York - by Eli Beckerman
Tragedy - by Richard Macintosh
A Perfect Fit: Buddhists & The Greens - by José M. Tirado
Pericles' Funeral Oration For The 911 Dead - by Manuel García, Jr.
Hooray For The DIS-es -- The DISobedient And DISsenters - by Philip Greenspan
Stan Goff's Full Spectrum Disorder - Book Review by John Steppling
Assia de Nocumento - Poem by Gerard Donnelly Smith
The Temple Goddess - Poem by Gerard Donnelly Smith
Letters to the Editor